Israeli firm Cellebrite named as FBI’s mystery helper - Mobile World Live

Israeli firm Cellebrite named as FBI’s mystery helper

24 MAR 2016

The unidentified third party offering to find a backdoor into the iPhone for US law enforcement has been named as Israel’s Cellebrite, not the first time it’s been in the headlines for such skills.

The firm is helping the FBI in its attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the two killers in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, said Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

The newspaper quoted “experts in the field familiar with the case”. Cellebrite, which has been providing the FBI with decryption technology as part of a contract signed in 2013, did not comment on the report.

The claim by the US government that the Israeli firm could find a back door into the Apple device led to a dramatic postponement of a court hearing scheduled for earlier this week.

US prosecutors announced that a “non-governmental third party” had a possible technique for opening the iPhone, adding they were “cautiously optimistic” it would work.

Cellebrite has been linked to hacking into secure devices before. Back in January, a report said researchers from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) managed to read encrypted emails on BlackBerry devices.  NFI used technology from the Israeli firm to recover and read a large number of emails on the device used, according to the report.

It should be noted that BlackBerry, for whom security is a major part of its proposition for enterprises, responded that its smartphones are “secure as they have always been”.

If a breach did take place, it could have been related to issues such as “user consent, an insecure third party application, or deficient security behaviour of the users” – essentially issues beyond the design of the device, said the Canadian firm.

It is unclear how Cellebrite might crack the iPhone.  It is considered a leading firm in digital forensics and works with leading intelligence, defence and law enforcement authorities, including the FBI.


Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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